Jun 26, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 488: Batman and Robin #7, March 2010


I have opinions on Geoff Johns. First and foremost, I think he's one of the people responsible for the utter lack of innovation and backslide that DC Comics has taken over the last few years. The New 52 was probably one of the most ill-considered moves in comics, and the current back-pedalling "Rebirth" has all the hallmarks of yet another disaster. That said, his work on Green Lantern in the early 2000s is really amongst the best stories of that character that I've had the pleasure to read. I was dubious about the return of Hal Jordan, but Johns has a love for that character that shines through in his writing. One of the highest points of his run was the "Blackest Night" crossover, a comic that managed at the same time to reach the heights of superheroic storytelling that I love while simultaneously delving into the grimmest depths of the genre - a bit like Bendis' Age of Ultron.

Anyway, all this is prologue to the storyline upon which we embark today, "Blackest Knight." In the wake of the resurrections around the planet, the world is, as DC Earth does, moving on. But Dick Grayson has discovered a lost Lazarus Pit, and intends to resurrect Bruce Wayne. And things will go smoothly, of course.

One of the absolute, 100% best things about this issue is the background information that is casually dropped in the dialogue. The DCU is ridiculously North American, and really U.S., -centric, but Morrison, in just two or three speech bubbles, provides us with the notion that the United Kingdom (not so united anymore) has its own rich and varied superheroic history. I've already noted my appreciation for Knight and Squire, but the villains sound amazing: The Morris Men (as someone who's attended a few Morris Dancing festivals, I'd looooove to see them as super-baddies), The Radio Ghost, and even a nod to Brit Simon Furman and his acclaimed run on the U.S. and U.K. Transformers titles, the "Metalek Xenoformer," looking much like a steam shovel when we encounter it. And all this information provided in the voice of a super-Beefeater in the U.K.'s super-prison, Basement 101.

This is something that Morrison appreciates in a way that I don't see in a lot of other writers. Warren Ellis is perhaps one of the few others to realize that there's this insane disparity between the richness of imaginary U.S. superhero culture and that of the rest of the world. And, of course, we're not going to see all of these hole filled in. Popular audiences are, understandably, skewed toward stories that reflect their own experiences somehow, and despite a shared language, there's a lot of differences between North American and Europea....oops, sorry, English culture. However, such small acknowledgments as we see in this one little descriptive passage fill in not only names and locations, but also story potentials. One of McCloud's notions is the idea of "closure," that we fill in the gaps between the panels in a comic. From a narrative perspective, situated in a shared narrative universe, the bits and pieces we receive of other countries' super-histories allows us to perform a similar function with those histories. Knight and Squire, legacy heroes in the U.K., a super-prison guarded by a super-Beefeater, a slew of colourful villains. Enough information to demonstrate difference and commonality of fictional history.

Oh, the other 100% absolute best thing about this comic is that it co-stars the amazing Kate Kane, Batwoman. The more I'm reading her these days, the more I want to go and track down all of her appearances, even the New 52 stuff. *sigh* I told myself I wasn't going to do this...


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